It is not easy making your presence felt in India, but if you are Yoo, the exclusive, London-based design powerhouse cofounded by Philippe Starck, doors open.
The company is making its first foray into India's luxury residential market, partnering with the construction and development company Panchshil Realty on a project called Yoopune, a modern five-star sanctuary about two hours away from Mumbai.
"Yoopune provides a first for Indian buyers," explains John Hitchcox, the co-founder of Yoo. "Combining world-class design inspired by Starck with a prestigious range of amenities, it is an innovative new residential concept."
The timing could not have been better. With demand for luxury on the rise in India, Yoo's project fills the gap for branded, high-end real estate. Situated in the charming Koregaon Park Annexe, five kilometres from the centre of Pune and away from the hustle and bustle of city life, Yoopune's unique site spans 17 acres and incorporates an area of lush rainforest.
Due for completion in 2014, the project will feature 228 homes, ranging in size from 5,100 to 6,900 square feet, set across six towers.
Starck is quick to clarify that he does not merely design homes - he aims to infuse lives with a dose of happiness, passion and spirit. "The most interesting and challenging part of partnering with Yoo is to create private places with aristocracy and humanity, elegance and humour," he says. "At the same time, it is important for me to create the public spaces [in such a way] that they imprint deeply on our emotion and memory."
For this project, Starck offers residents four interior design palettes to choose from: Minimal, Classic, Nature and Culture. The Minimal model is characterised by the use of glass, steel, concrete and neutral colours, creating a clean, calm ambience with a modern edge. The Minimal palette was envisaged as a solution for people who want to use the house as a springboard for their own creativity. It is a blank canvas that invites its dwellers to add their own layers, personality and character. Classic has an understated elegance and favours leathers, dark woods and mahogany. Classical and contemporary pieces have been intelligently combined to create a stylish, sophisticated scheme.
The Nature palette, meanwhile, is inspired by the subtle moods of the sun and sea-bleached wood, and features sand and pebble greys mixed with soft greens. "I am inspired by the beautiful story of our animal species born four billion years ago that shall die in four billion years when the sun implodes," says Starck in his characteristically ebullient fashion. "This history is the most romantic and most poetic story I know. And if you mix it with biology, science and quantum mathematics, you have enough material for a lifetime of inspiration."
The Culture palette highlights Starck's passion for appropriating beautiful, exquisitely produced objects and ideas that contrast in a striking fashion. Starck's love and understanding of India in all its diversity is evident in the creative suggestions offered in the Culture show home - the design wholeheartedly embraces the country's colours, cultures, traditions and crafts. Rich and bold, the palette has a powerful sense of history, but manages to be forward thinking at the same time.
And where better to introduce such contrast and drama than in India? "I had my first house in India when I was 23, and since then I've known that we share the same values, as we ... dream about something else, something new, with passion," says Starck.
Further enhancing its positioning as a premier lifestyle destination, Yoopune will be home to a Six Senses Spa - another company making its debut in India. Inhabitants will have access to a yoga and fitness centre along with relaxation areas nestled around lush greenery, a tea lounge, juice bar, cigar lounge, cabanas, multiple swimming pools and tennis and basketball courts.
The starting price for a Yoopune apartment is US$2 million (Dh7.3m). As well as residents of India looking to upgrade their lifestyles, the project also is looking to appeal to Indian expatriates living in destinations such as the UAE, Hong Kong, Europe and the US, who will use Yoopune as a base when they visit their home country.
"A lot more people in India now understand brand value, appreciate quality and don't mind paying extra for it, and this understanding now extends to the real estate market as well," says Sunaina Saxena, a spokesperson for The ArchiDesign Group, which represents India's architectural, design and construction community.
"Starck is one of the most famous designers in the world and has his own unique style. To be able to live in one of his creations has immense name-dropping value, too, not to mention it shows off your good taste."
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